In my first guide to Keeper of the Light, I went over a general outline of how to effectively play Kotl. In this guide, I will go over more intricate, detailed strategies on how to maximize your chances of victory in various situations.
In this guide I will cover the following:
-Solo mid kotl
Counter initiation is one of Ezalor's strongest points, but so few players utilize it to its full potential. A big pitfall keeper players fall into is using their ult for frivelous things like using ghost blast to push prior to a team fight. In any mid-late game scenario, your ult is pretty much only good for blind, which is by far the strongest utility of spirit form.
Keeper's blind is incredible for counter initiating many situations in Dota 2. The key to successfully using it is to know the precise range you must be to be absolutely certain that if the opponent's initiator attacks your team, you are outside of their iniation spell's range. This allows you to quickly use spirit form and blind the opposing team. Now this obviously isn't a one-move-counters all process, but there are many situations I see kotl players not execute this properly in when they should.
First example I'll give is the case against faceless void. (Seems obvious, right?). As kotl, you should never ulti prior to faceless void initiating with chrono sphere. Ideally, you should be within just enough range where your blind can hit the entire dome with a little hitting behind. This ensures that not only void is blind, but anybody standing at the very edge auto attacking become blinded. This, for all intents and purposes, makes the chrono sphere worthless for faceless void. Another way of dealing with Void's initiation is to have a force staff and react to his time walk animation, force yourself just out of range so he will use chronosphere thinking he got you. Upon doing this, simply ulti and blind him and the stinger will have been removed from the bee.
Notice how large your blind AOE is compared to void's chrono sphere. Your ability to counter initiate him is amazing.
Magnus is another character that being able to counter initiate with Keeper is completely crucial. The spacing required to counter initiate reverse polarity may be a little less stringent than chrono sphere, but the key to countering this is actually to wait. If magnus catches 2-3 of your teammates in a reverse polarity, with you not in it, the key is to wait a split second before blinding because either A. Magnus is going to blink in with empower already on, or B. blink, polarity, then cast empower on either him or somebody else. The latter is where you must be precise, because maximizing the 5 seconds your team has to survive huge auto attacks is crucial. If you're really fast at reacting, you can react to his empower animation and immediately blind during that. (This is quite difficult, as having such patience is really tough in the heat of battle). Timing is absolute key when countering this, because it could really make the difference between winning and losing.
If Ursa happens to be in your game, you must never use ulti until you see him. It's not only crucial that you just not ulti until you see ursa, but to blind right as he blinks in on a teammate or yourself. Good ursa players will try to wait you out (assuming they don't have black king bar). An Ursa that can't kill somebody for 5 seconds quickly becomes useless as not only will his overpower be down and on cooldown for the next 10 seconds, but he'll be completely vulnerable to the rest of your team. Of course, ursa can potentially kill you in the time it takes to actually transform into spirit form...in this case, your spacing must be absolutely spot on in knowing the distance between you and your allies, because you have to ensure that you aren't within immediate blink distance from potential areas in fog he could be.
In the event the opposing team has a Tidehunter that does not have blink dagger, you can use your blind to push him away just as he's using ravage. This is quite tough, and usually requires you to react precisely to the second his animation is coming out. If done right, you can possibly save a few of your teammates and yourself from being hit by it. I wouldn't exactly say this is a super reliable strategy since you're generally going to have to pop spirit form pretty fast in anticipation of ravage, but this CAN technically be done and it works well in pushing tide's AOE back a bit when it does happen.
The quicker you can farm a force staff, the more effective of a counter initiator you will become. Of course, it's much easier to react to something like Time Walk since the animation is much slower than a blink dagger, but the better you get at reacting to an initiation and forcing yourself out of range to counter initiate, your chances of coming out on top skyrocket.
Laning is probably the area of the game that keeper can potentially influence the most, since the early game magic damage dealt with his illuminate is at its zenith during this phase. (For the record, this guide will center primarily in strategies in the offlane). Most, if not all, of offlaning will involve you basing your harassment completely from behind the lane's treeline.
How to effectively lane
The two biggest factors that determine effective laning are 1. Wards and 2. Your ability to control space.
This section will focus on the scenario where it is you and a teammate in the offlane.
First off, you should always ward the large area you're moving around. On the radiant side, a ward placed at the edge of the river between the tree line of the closest creep camp near the rune spawn and the junction at the bottom lane is a must. On the dire side, stick a ward in the open area near where the lane bend is below the treeline.
There's two ways you can look at a potential creep pull ward. You don't HAVE to ward the creep pull as keeper. You can kinda of option select and wait until 30 seconds to see what creeps have spawned and build a strategy around that. If centaurs or rock golems have spawned, then I suggest just ward it if it's still possible. In the event the camp spawns anything else, you could simply leave it, wait for the opponent to pull, and then steal the kills with your blast. (This may hamper your teammate's farm by letting the opponent pull, but being the offlane, crippling the opponent's carry is far more important). However, if you're in a particularly tough lane with stuns/nukes, just ward the pull as soon as you can.
Using illuminate to harass while avoiding the majority of creeps is what will make or break the lane. Of course, you could always prevent the opponents from tower hugging with well placed illuminates, but having a person in the lane who could use farm could quickly become useless if the creeps push into the tower. Most people get the misconception that this is impossible, and thus, don't successfully harass with illuminate. Aiming around the creeps just requires experience and a good intuition of the hitbox of illuminate. If you can avoid hitting all by 1 creep, then I say keep doing it. Hitting twice with illuminate at level 1 can force the opponent to use all their heals, so putting them on the backfoot early is the key.
Keys to accomplishing effective laning:
1. Create the illusion of space by setting up a blast where your opponents think they can harass you and by the time they commit to it, they get hit and have an immediate follow up attack from your lane partner. Deception is a very powerful tactic, because the ability to even release blast early and back up just before the opponent gets into active range is so insanely powerful that it'll completely take the opponents out of the lane, or even better, result in them being killed.
2. Utilizing fog of war is key. Memorizing exactly which pockets within the tree line and forest to blast can wreck opponents very quick and force them to play very scared. Remember, you can always position your blasts in such a way where you don't intend for them to hit, but rather, for the opponent to move a certain way to force them out of position.
3. Forcing the opponents to chase you around while your ally free farms. Controlling space means you can move in and out of harassing distance depending on the opponent's reaction to your illuminates. The better your spacing becomes, the more aggressive you will become and will eventually get to a point where you can keep the pressure on non-stop against many lane combos that you may have previously thought to be hard. Remember, as in point 2, making them think they can safely attack you when they can't and making them waste time by chasing you around is the epitome of effective laning.
There are many ways to approach laning, but Ezalor's options far exceed many other support heroes when it comes to decision making in this particular part of the game. A lot of kotl's decision making early game will center primarily around the aspect of zoning opponents out and trying to control the majority of space on the playfield. In this section, I will go over various scenarios that can maximize your chances of winning.
The first thing to take note of is that you can use illuminate twice at level 1. Your decision on when to use this can completely change how the laning phase goes. Since your ultimate goal is to reach 3 so you can harass or support somebody without any interruption.
First scenario I'm going to lay out is an instance where you're against Naix and Venomancer. It's pretty acknowledged at the start that if you or your ally gets galed or hit with open wounds to start, you're pretty much screwed and are going to die. Aside from that, it's also acknowledge that venomancer's going to do his best to attempt to zone you out completely from harassing naix. So how do you approach such a difficult situation? You could start off by trying your best to hit venomancer with both of your blasts at level 1, thus forcing him back and preventing him from zoning you out. This COULD lead to you killing a few creeps, thus hampering the cs of your ally. Is this a necessary sacrifice? This is ultimately up to you to decide, but consider that by not harassing venomancer, your ability to effectively control the lane can be put to a standstill. Another option is to play passively and wait until level 3...but then your cs will possibly shrink much less than the few creeps sacrificed to put Venomancer on the backfoot and zone him and naix out. A lot of this is completely psychological. Getting the opponent to play scared of you is a powerful tool, and will eventually turn into them not even going for an attempt to attack you even if they safely can. Illuminate's effect on the opposition's psyche is quite wonderful in this regard.
When against an aggressive venomancer, the trick to getting him to play passive is to play to his aggression. What I mean by this is get right outside of the range of gale and just channel blast. At level 1, he won't be able to escape it due to the short channeling time. Simply do this again if you have to. Making him guess where you're blasting by well placed fog illuminates will also aggravate the most aggressive players. By hitting them with any form of illuminate, they're more likely to run back after thus allowing you to get 2-3 auto attacks in.
In the instance venomancer is playing passive, you can press the advantage a bit. There isn't much secret to playing against passive players since you're already going to be blasting them from outside of their vision constantly.
Let this triangle represent the total space venomancer can control. As you can see, your options are limited, so forcing him to play defensively will essentially push that blue triangle back so the total space he controls shrinks and shrinks.
Soloing an offlane with Keeper can be a big challenge at times; especially against a trilane. There really isn't much secret to playing a solo offlane as keeper, since playing the lane safe is going to be your best strategy. But simply sitting back and not doing anything isn't going to be good enough. In the event where the opponent's support is trying to zone you out to keep you at low levels, it will come down to who can get the life lead. Your sense of spacing and knowledge of the opponent's options is extremely crucial in this area. There are a few ways to accomplish this.
1. Do not use your illuminates at level 1 right off the start. Wait until the opponent's support tries to zone you out (assuming you have a ward in an ideal spot to see behind the treeline). If you manage to hit the support with one illuminate, WAIT. They will likely use their heals. This is when you want to get in a few auto attacks. If successful at getting the opponent to roughly 50% health, then see how aggressive they play. If they want to try to keep the pace, a second illuminate hitting them will force them to play passively.
2. constantly move with the opponent's support relative to his position. Never allow the opponent to get behind you to catch you out of position. Of course, Keeper's auto attack range is pretty average, so you're almost always going to be forced to trade hits. As in point 1, your illuminate is your only saving grace to get the life lead.
The red box represents Lina's attack range, while the blue represents Keeper's. Lina slightly out-ranges you, so getting the early life lead is crucial, because you're already at a disadvantage in this situation. There's little hope of you being able to out space Lina in this situation, but at early levels, you still out damage her depending on how well you can use illuminate to gain the life lead. I know, it sounds crazy because she can harass very effectively with auto attacks and dragon slave, but utilizing your greater movement speed to keep up with the harass and then using illuminate when you're outside of her effective dragon slave/attack range, then you should be able to keep up and possibly even win the duel.
3. Your knowledge of line of sight is your greatest weapon, so the better you get at staying slightly out of the opponent's site when either setting up and illuminate or going in and out harassing them, the easier gaining the life lead becomes. Of course, a lot of these factors are heavily based on what lane you're against. You have the projectile that forces them to either heavily commit or move back. There's no way two ways around it, aiming your blasts in situations where they get hit regardless is absurdly powerful, because kotl simply will not lose trades at all, unless the opponent can actually commit to you and kill you. Keeper of the light's spatial control is second to none, so USE IT and ABUSE IT. It's ALL about the geometry, baby.
WHOA HOLD THE PHONE, KEEPER SOLOING MID? Keeper is surprisingly a pretty viable mid hero and can farm much faster than a lot of other mid heroes. Before I go into any strategies or matchups, let me first outline the pros and cons to keeper of the light soloing mid.
-Little to no killing power
-Lacks high base attack damage, so last-hitting can become an issue.
-Can possibly get rushed down by more aggressive heroes at early levels like Queen of Pain and Batrider.
-Isn't the best ganker at level 7
-Farms extremely fast
-Can kill creeps from a very safe range making him difficult to harass
-Can kill jungle camps super fast
-Requires no mana regen items such as bottle
-Has unrivaled pushing power at level 7
Ok first off, the only time you should solo keeper of the light mid is on the radiant side. Why is this? Well, the radiant side has the specific advantage of having two jungle camps immediately within fast walking distance from the mid lane that require you to walk much further to access no the Dire side.
The radiant jungle is very ideal for soloing mid with kotl.
It's best to start out with a healing potion, a set of tangos, a set of wards, and the rest spend on clarity potions.
How to mid
First thing to keep in mind is that levels 1-3 are the most important. Second thing to note is either at the start of the game or sometime during laning, ward the opponent's side of the river as this gives you a good reference point to avoid harassment and to know where to aim your illuminates when last hitting creeps with them. The main strategy of laning mid is to farm as many creeps within the lane using illuminate and your auto attack to last hit creeps and effectively push the creep line back to the opponent's side of the river. You should accomplish this around the 40 second mark of each minute. This will allow you plenty of time to stack either the weak creep camp closest to the mid lane or the strong camp that's below the weak camp at the 53 second mark of each minute. Ideally, you should stack the strong camp since it yields more gold and exp upon killing it. You could also stick around in the lane more if you're confident in your ability to last hit and get 1-2 more creep kills and just stack the weak camp instead, since you have more time to stack it.
Your main goal is to farm, really, since you lack sufficient killing power unless the enemy is somehow not paying attention. However, this doesn't mean you can't harass. From levels 1-3, your opponent is going to need those crucial early last hits, so the more you're able to last hit your own creeps with illuminate the less room your opponent's going to have to get into range to last hit, thus allowing you to deny creeps. For levels 1 and 2, this is when you need to constantly use your clarities so you can maximize the amount of illuminates you can use to zone the opponent out and gets many last hits as possible. By level 5 you should get level 3 illuminate and now you can kill your stacked strong neutral camp and the weak neutral camp over and over at each minute mark while still farming the mid lane effectively with it.
While you don't have tremendous killing power with Keeper, the opponent does have to constantly be on his toes as getting hit with just one illuminate will cause significant damage. Once you reach level 3, you should be able to harass the opponent enough just by blasting the wave or forcing him to move out of range to last hit with quite a bit. Remember, you don't have to fully charge your blasts to efficiently harass. A good strategy is to get relatively close to the opponent and just start charging until he begins to move out of range. If you time it right, you can release it and get 1-2 creep kills and decent damage on the opponent. Another tactic is to simply blast out of vision for more damage. These things are quite obvious, so there isn't much to explaining them.
What to do next?
around 6-7 minutes, you should generally have enough gold to buy a mek or a large item of similar costs. The earlier you can get tranquil boots and mek, the bigger of a nightmare Keeper is to fight in team battles. This allows you to gank and push lanes early with little to no resistance from the other team. If your lanes are already going well and ganks aren't overly necessary (Perhaps you have a strong tri-lane going). Just stay mid and push it. The opponent will have to dedicate 2-3 heroes to effectively counter push kotl.
Keeper of the light's biggest advantage in being a mid hero is that, at level 7, he far outpushes any hero in the game. There's nothing the opponent can really do about it without having to dedicate those 3 heroes mid, so you can choose between a gank then push, or simply pushing mid.
After a few large pushes, you should have a decent amount of gold to start building your next big item. This is really up to you as the player, since there's a lot of items you can go. I don't really want to focus on item strategy in this section, but moreso along the lines of explaining just how devastating kotl can be with early farm.
A good example would be farming Mekansm, boots of travel, and force staff really fast. This not only makes you practically unkillable for a good portion of the early-mid game, but also makes it so the opponent is forced to devote a lot of resources to teleporting around the map to counter push you and not to farming or ganking. Now most of this is just well known for most experienced dota players, but the problem most kotl players face is not actually having the items to do this because one of the large misconceptions of Dota is that Keeper of the Light, while being a great famer, doesn't benefit largely from the gold he gets. Getting early levels with a fast boots of travel and mekansm can arguably make keeper of the light one of the best heroes in the game. If the opponent has to constantly spend 150 gold on teleports to go back and forth from lane to lane to deal with you, get maybe 1-2 creep kills per wave that you're pushing into their tower and not devoting any time to ganking the other lanes, then you're not only doing your job, but pulling the most influence in the game by a mile.
There isn't much to be said regarding this, but there's a few things I'd like to point out that would help you.
First and foremost, ALWAYS waypoint a command to move in a desired direction when blasting.
In the event a teammate is overextending himself to the point of diving for a kill on the opponent, (Use your best judgement when doing this), but a good thing to do is ult and cast recall on that person in the event he gets a kill to safely pull him out. You could even use this method on a hero like ursa who can blink in, kill somebody, and have recall preemptively casted on him to immediately take him out. (This takes quite a bit of coordination).
KNOW YOUR MATCHUPS! Know which heroes to modify your spell build or item build against. In my original guide, I laid out a spell build that is efficient in most matchups, but some demand you get blind before level 11 or chakra level 3 (The absolute least efficient variation of any of his spells).
CHAKRA LEVEL 3 SUCKS. Do not level this up early as you only get 75 bonus mana and +10 mana cost (This might not sound like a lot, but it feels like an eternity waiting for that extra 10 mana just to give yourself 75 more). Most heroes in the game do not benefit from 75 more mana, either, as there are very little spells with a 75 or less mana cost. Level 2 chakra is the most efficient of all variations, so there's little reason to ever get level 3.
When should you go against my wisdom and get chakra level 3 early? It benefits heroes who use mana over time in a spell such as Leshrac and Storm, or with wisp, who's mana regen through his chain doubles the mana totaling out to 150 more. Even in these niche situations, mana leak is pretty much always better in maxing out before chakra. If you happen to be a trilane situation, getting chakra level 3 may be more efficient then getting mana leak because you will not be gaining levels fast, and in most events, you will be using chakra on your allies. Since giving yourself chakra level 3 only results in a surplus of 55 mana per use, you have to chakra yourself 3 times just for one extra illuminate...so for that purpose, it's horribly inefficient. However, giving one ally 3 chakras in a row will be more cost effective in a trilane where leveling is slow. Since mana leak is pretty bad until level 3, and in a trilane situation it's probably best you get your ultimate at 6...getting chakra level 3 is pretty good.
If you happen to be laning on the radiant side offlane, a really mean trick you can pull if the opponent is tower hugging is to eat the tree at this precise location displayed below in the picture. This allows you to still remain hidden while being able to move further in the treeline and increase your blast range to hit turtling opponents.
This is one of the most annoying things you can do to turtling tower huggers.
The better you get at dominating the early to mid game without your ultimate, the better of a player you will become.
(I will add more strategies to this guide over time)
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